Proposal offers seniors help finding ways to stay at home in Saint Andrews

By Andrew Bates Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(Andrew Bates photo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter) The Wellness Centre at the W.C. O’Neill Arena Complex in Saint Andrews.

SAINT ANDREWS – A proposal for a seniors’ resource centre in the Saint Andrews Wellness Centre is aimed at helping keep seniors in their homes longer.

The project, which Passamaquoddy Lodge is leading, would be a staffed resource centre for seniors offering help to access grants, incentives and community programs, according to executive director Yolande Jay. It is part of the provincial government’s “nursing homes without walls” initiative, Jay said, noting it was also one of the recommendations from a healthy seniors pilot project last year.

“One of the things the people in the community felt they needed was a resource for healthy aging at home,” Jay said. “We have a lot of rural seniors that don’t know how to use a computer, they don’t have access to internet, which means they don’t know that there are incentives to stay in their homes.”

Jay gave an example of a rural senior who was using a wood stove when an incentive was available to help them move to gas heating. She noted that there are also incentives to help with bills for low-income seniors.

She said it would be similar to resource centres for job hunters, except to help seniors access stakeholders and programs such as meals on wheels, adding she was hoping they could get someone in to help them with income tax preparation and could partner with the wellness centre for follow-up assistance.

The centre would be located in vacant dental office space in the Saint Andrews Wellness Centre, which Saint Andrews council approved during its Aug. 8 meeting. Jay said they’ve made their proposal to the province for funding and are now waiting for a response. The total cost, which includes equipment and two staff members, including a co-ordinator and an assistant, is in the $200,000 range, Jay said.

“We’re hoping it goes well, it sounds positive,” she said. “We would like to see it open its doors in October.”

At the meeting, Coun. Annette Harland said she had been involved in development of the proposal and she’s hopeful that any possible grants could eventually become permanent funding.

“We have been very supportive of this,” Harland said at the meeting. “It’s a very exciting opportunity. The other plus of having it as part of this wellness centre is that the staff of this centre will have an opportunity to consult and collaborate with our staff.”

Jay said the centre would be a “starting project” for the lodge, which is preparing a new 60-unit care home using the “household” model of care. That would include adult day programs and other projects “to keep people at home and keep them healthy.”

“Hopefully when we get the new build, these projects would come all under one umbrella,” she said.

This was one of six recommendations that came from a pilot project to identify ways to support aging in place run by the nursing home and researchers from St. Thomas University, according to a letter from project co-lead Caroline Davies. Others include an adult day program, a therapy pool, community kitchen, activity space and workout space, with the latter three open for other interested community groups, the letter said.

“Saint Andrews and all of Charlotte County are taking steps in the right direction to help people age at home as long as possible and as healthy as possible,” Jay said. “There are people in this community that are well-invested.”